The FMD Forum was formed by role players in the red meat industry in Limpopo and neighbouring provinces. Concerned parties gathered at Bela Bela in November 2019 to discuss the implications of the call from government for auctions in Limpopo, Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga to be suspended until the breakout of FMD in the Molemole district of Limpopo was contained and the situation back to normal. The impact of this outbreak, being within the FMD free zone of SA, called for serious attention and extraordinary measures. Industry hence embarked on a series of meetings with the department of Veterinary services as well as all major role players in the red meat value chain in SA.
The Forum decided to adhere immediately to the request for suspension of auctions. The members of the South African Federation of Livestock Auctioneers in Limpopo gathered for a strategic session and concluded that co-operation with this request is in the best interest of the industry. They also decided on actions to support planning to put measures in place that will not only bring a solution for the current situation, but also bring about a system that will prevent the same situation in future as best as possible.
To achieve these goals, the Forum appointed two professionals to spearpoint the drafting of a plan which integrate proper biosecurity measures at auctions with a world class traceability system for livestock. This plan was drafted and presented to the Technical Task Team of DARDLR. The intension of the plan is to equip auction facilities with equipment and procedures to mitigate the risk of the FMD virus being spread to and from auction pens.
Animals intended for sales by auctioneers in Limpopo will be expected to be properly brand marked as well as marked in the ear with a RFID (radio frequency identity device). The system behind this means of identification, includes all relevant information on a database to enable auctioneers and buyers of animals, to trace the animal to its origin and lawful ownership.
Several auction facilities in Limpopo were upgraded, at high cost, to the proposed standards for biosecurity. Research on available RFID ear tags and software systems to support the process was done by the consultants. Adjustments to the software used at auctions to accommodate the traceability system as well as integration of data to be shared by the auction systems and management systems on farm, was completed. Commercial and communal farmers were advised by the Forum on the system to be implemented. Plans to support especially communal and small scale farmers with proper branding and marking of animals, is in place.
The Forum requested DARDLR to consider the plan presented to them for adoption as a strategy for implementation as a measure to try and mitigate chances of a FMD outbreak in the free zone in future. This hope was shelved with the announcement by the Director of Veterinary Services at a meeting on Monday 10 February 2020. DARDLR is willing to support the Forum’s efforts and plan, but not to implement it as part of the lifting of the ban on auctions as and when that will happens!
The effect of this announcement is that the red meat industry is on its own as far as proper biosecurity at auctions are concerned. With traceability the support for LITS SA by DARDLR, seems to be the full measure of support traceability will receive from DARDLR. Real engagement on grass roots level with emerging farmers to help them become part of the system, is farfetched. Reason being: it was explicitly mentioned that DARDLR cannot implement the Forum’s plan due to a lack of manpower and other resources. This refers to the very resources needed to engage with livestock owners to prevent a future breakout of FMD!
On 19 February 2020 the FMD Forum will be hosting a management meeting on proper actions to be taken by the Forum to serve the interests of all livestock owners in Limpopo and every other province where FMD may be a threat in future. The future is uncertain as FMD was never before so intensely battled in the free zone. Measures implemented by DARDLR in the current situation showed itself to be unfit for the situation. The Department, unwilling or unable to support industry in the initiative as presented by the Forum to DARDLR, is enough indication of the way livestock owners should prepare themselves for in future. If the industry is not taking responsibility for itself, government cannot, due to many restrictions!
The economic impact the current situation has on the cattle industry, is devastating! It should NEVER be repeated! Prevention is in the hands of the industry. Limpopo cannot wait for role players far from the fire to get mobilised. The FMD Forum came into existence to make a difference. That is exactly what we plan to do.
Paul van Vuuren – André Kock and Son – 083 230 3595
Willem van Jaarsveld – Consultant – 082 451 7913